THEY CANNOT TAKE AWAY DOES NOT EXIST, it wrote.
Angua threw up her hands. 'I'm trying to be civilized,' she said. 'I could confiscate you right now. The charge would be Being Obstructive When It's Been a Long Day and I've Had Enough. Do you know Father Tubelcek?'
THE OLD PRIEST WHO LIVES ON THE BRIDGE.
'How come you know him?'
I MADE DELIVERIES THERE.
'He's been murdered. Where were you when he was killed?'
IN THE SLAUGTERHOUSE.
'How do you know?'
Dorfl hesitated a moment. Then the next words were written very slowly, as if they had come from a long way away after a great deal of thought.
BECAUSE IT IS SOMETHING THAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED NOT LONG AGO, BECAUSE YOU ARE EXCITED.FOR THE LAST THEREE DAYS I HAVE BEEN WORKING HERE.
'All the time?'
'Twenty-four hours a day?'
YES. MEN AND TROLLS HERE ON EVERY SHIFT, THEY WILL TELL YOU. DURING THE DAY I MUST SLAUGHTER, DRESS, QUARTER, JOINT AND BONE, AND AT NIGHT WITHOUT REST I MUST MAKE SAUSAGES AND BOIL UP THE LIVERS, HEARTS, TRIPES, KIDNEYS AND CAITTERLINGS.
That's awful,' said Cheery.
The pencil blurred briefly.
Dorfl turned his head slowly to look at Angua and wrote:
DO YOU NEED ME FURTHER?
'If we do, we know where to find you.'
I AM SORRY ABOUT THE OLD MAN.
'Good. Come on, Cheery.'
They felt the golem's eyes on them as they left the yard.
'It was lying,' said Cheery.
'Why do you say that?'
'It looked as if it was lying.'
'You're probably right,' said Angua. 'But you can see the size of the place. I bet we wouldn't be able to prove it'd stepped out for half an hour. I think I'll suggest that we put it under what Commander Vimes calls special surveillance.'
'What, like… plain clothes?'
'Something like that,' said Angua carefully.
'Funny to see a pet goat in a slaughterhouse, I thought,' said Cheery, as they walked on through the fog.
'What? Oh, you mean the yudasgoat,' said Angua. 'Most slaughterhouses have one. It's not a pet. I suppose you could call it an employee.'
'Employee? What kind of job could it possibly do?'
'Hah. Walk into the slaughterhouse every day. That's its job. Look, you've got a pen full of frightened animals, right? And they're milling around and leaderless… and there's this ramp into this building, looks very scary… and, hey, there's this goat, it's not scared, and so the flock follows it and' – Angua made a throat-slitting noise – 'only the goat walks out.'
'I suppose it makes sense from the goat's point of view. At least it does walk out,' said Angua.
'How did you know about this?'
'Oh, you pick up all sorts of odds and ends of stuff in the Watch.'
'I've got a lot to learn, I can see,' said Cheery. 'I never thought you had to carry bits of blanket, for a start!'
'It's special equipment if you're dealing with the undead.'
'Well, I knew about garlic and vampires. Anything holy works on vampires. What else works on werewolves?'
'Sorry?' said Angua, who was still thinking about the golem.
'I've got a silver mail vest which I promised my family I'd wear, but is anything else good for werewolves?'
'A gin and tonic's always welcome,' said Angua distantly.
'Hmm? Yes? What?'
'Someone told me there was a werewolf in the Watchl I can't believe that!'
Angua stopped and stared down at her.
'I mean, sooner or later the wolf comes through,' said Cheery. 'I'm surprised Commander Vimes allows it.'
'There is a werewolf in the Watch, yes,' said Angua.
'I knew there was something odd about Constable Visit.'
Angua's jaw dropped.
'He always looks hungry,' said Cheery. 'And he's got that odd smile all the time. I know a werewolf when I see one.'
'He does look a bit hungry, that's true,' said Angua. She couldn't think of anything else to say.
'Well, I'm going to be keeping my distance!'
'Fine,' said Angua.
'Why do you wear your badge on a collar round your neck?'
'What? Oh. Well… so it's always handy. You know. In any circumstances.'
'Do I need to do that?'
'I shouldn't think so.'
Mr Sock jumped. 'Dorfl, you damn stupid lump! Never sneak up behind a man on the bacon slicer! I've told you that before! Try to make some noise when you move, damn you!' The golem held up its slate, which said:
TONIGHT I CANNOT WORK.
'What's this? The bacon slicer never asks for time off!'
IT IS A HOLY DAY.
Sock looked at the red eyes. Old Fishbine had said something about this, hadn't he, when he'd sold Dorfl? Something like: 'Sometimes it'll go off for a few hours because it's a holy day. It's the words in its head. If it doesn't go and trot off to its temple or whatever it is, the words'll stop working, don't ask me why. There's no point in stopping it.'
Five hundred and thirty dollars the thing had cost. He'd thought it was a bargain – and it was a bargain, no doubt about that. The damned thing only ever stopped working when it had run out of things to do. Sometimes not even then, according to the stories. You heard about golems flooding out houses because no one told them to stop carrying water from the well, or washing the dishes until the plates were thin as paper. Stupid things. But useful if you kept your eye on them.
And yet… and yet… he could see why no one seemed to keep them for long. It was the way the damned two-handed engine just stood there, taking it all in and putting it … where? And never complained. Or spoke at all.
A man could get worried about a bargain like that, and feel mightily relieved when he was writing out a receipt for the new owner.
'Seems to me there's been a lot of holy days lately,' Sock said.
SOME TIMES ARE MORE HOLY THAN OTHERS.
But they couldn't skive off, could they? Work was what a golem did.
'I don't know how we're going to manage…' Sock began.
IT IS A HOLY DAY.
'Oh, all right. You can have time off tomorrow.'
TONIGHT. HOLY DAY STARTS AT SUNSET.
'Be back quickly, then,' said Sock, weakly. 'Or I'll – You be back quickly, d'you hear?'
That was another thing. You couldn't threaten the creatures. You certainly couldn't withhold their pay, because they didn't get any. You couldn't frighten them. Fishbine had said that a weaver over Nap Hill way had ordered his golem to smash itself to bits with a hammer – and it had.
YES. I HEAR.
In a way, it didn't matter who they were. In fact, their anonymity was part of the whole business. They thought themselves part of the march of history, the tide of progress and the wave of the future. They were men who felt that The Time Had Come. Regimes can survive barbarian hordes, crazed terrorists and hooded secret societies, but they're in real trouble when prosperous and anonymous men sit around a big table and think thoughts like that. One said, 'At least it's clean this way. No blood.' 'And it would be for the good of the city, of course.'
They nodded gravely. No one needed to say that what was good for them was good for Ankh-Morpork.
'And he won't die?'
'Apparently he can be kept merely … unwell. The dosage can be varied, I'm told.'
'Good. I'd rather have him unwell than dead. I wouldn't trust Vetinari to stay in a grave.'
'I've heard that he once said he'd prefer to be cremated, as a matter of fact.'
'Then I just hope they scatter the ashes really widely, that's all.'
'What about the Watch?'
'What about it?'
Lord Vetinari opened his eyes. Against all rationality, his hair ached.
He concentrated, and a blur by the bed focused into the shape of Samuel Vimes.
'Ah, Vimes,' he said weakly.
'How are you feeling, sir?'
'Truly dreadful. Who was that little man with the incredibly bandy legs?'
'That was Doughnut Jimmy, sir. He used to be a jockey on a very fat horse.'
'Apparently, sir '
'A fat racehorse? Surely that could never win a race?'
'I don't believe it ever did, sir. But Jimmy made a lot of money by not winning races.'
'Ah. He gave me milk and some sort of sticky potion.' Vetinari concentrated. 'I was heartily sick.'
'So I understand, sir.'
'Funny phrase, that. Heartily sick. I wonder why it's a cliche? Sounds… jolly. Rather cheerful, really.'
'Feel like I've got a bad dose of 'flu, Vimes. Head not working properly.'
The Patrician thought for a while. There was obviously something else on his mind. 'Why did he still smell of horses, Vimes?' he said at last.
'He's a horse doctor, sir. A damn good one. I heard last month he treated Dire Fortune and it didn't fall over until the last furlong.'
'Doesn't sound helpful, Vimes.'
'Oh, I don't know, sir. The horse had dropped dead coming up to the starting line.'
'Ah. I see. Well, well, well. What a nasty suspicious mind you have, Vimes.'
'Thank you, sir.'
The Patrician raised himself on his elbows. 'Should toenails throb, Vimes?'
'Couldn't say, sir.'
*Now, I think I should like to read for a while. Life goes on, eh?'
Vimes went to the window. There was a nightmarish figure crouched on the edge of the balcony outside, staring into the thickening fog.
'Everything all right, Constable Downspout?'
'Eff, fir,' said the apparition.
'I'll shut the window now. The fog is coming in.'
'Fight oo are, fir.'
Vimes closed the window, trapping a few tendrils which gradually faded away. 'What was that?' said Lord Vetinari. 'Constable Downspout's a gargoyle, sir. He's no good on parade and bloody useless on the street, but when it conies to staying in one place, sir, you can't beat him. He's world champion at not moving. If you want the winner of the 100 Metres Standing Still, that's him. He spent three days on a roof in the rain when we caught the Park Lane Knobbler. Nothing'll get past him. And there's Corporal Gimletsson patrolling the corridor and Constable Glodsnephew on the floor below and Constables Flint and Moraine in the rooms on either side of you, and Sergeant Detritus will be around constantly so that if anyone nods off he'll kick arse, sir, and you'll know when he does that 'cos the poor bugger'll come right through the wall.'
'Well done, Vimes. Am I right in thinking that all my guards are non-human? They all seem to be dwarfs and trolls.' 'Safest way, sir.'
'You've thought of everything, Vimes.' 'Hope so, sir.'
'Thank you, Vimes.' Vetinari sat up and took a mass of papers off the bedside table. 'And now, don't let me detain you.' Vimes's mouth dropped open. Vetinari looked up. 'Was there anything else, Commander?'
'Well … I suppose not, sir. I suppose I'd just better run along, eh?'
'If you wouldn't mind. And I'm sure a lot of paperwork has accumulated in my office, so if you'd send someone to fetch it, I would be obliged.'
Vimes shut the door behind him, a little harder than necessary. Gods, it made him livid, the way Vetinari turned him on and off like a switch – and had as much natural gratitude as an alligator. The Patrician relied on Vimes doing his job, knew he'd do his job, and that was the extent of his thought on the matter. Well, one day, Vimes would… would…
… would bloody well do his job, of course, because he didn't know how to do anything else. But realizing that made it all the worse.
Outside the palace the fog was thick and yellow. Vimes nodded to the guards on the door, and looked out at the clinging, swirling clouds.
It was almost a straight line to the Watch House in Pseudopolis Yard. And the fog had brought early night to the city. Not many people were on the streets; they stayed indoors, barring the windows against the damp shreds that seemed to leak in everywhere.
Yes… empty streets, a chilly night, dampness in the air …
Only one thing was needed to make it perfect. He sent the sedan men on home and walked back to one of the guards. 'You're Constable Lucker, aren't you?'
'Yessir, Sir Samuel.'
'What size boots do you take?'
Lucker looked panicky.'What, sir?'
'It's a simple question, man!'
'Seven and a halfs, sir.'
'From old Plugger in New Cobblers? The cheap ones?'
'Can't have a man guarding the palace in cardboard boots!' said Vimes, with mock cheerfulness. 'Off with them, Constable. You can have mine. They've still got wyvern – well, whatever it is wyverns do – on them, but they'll fit you. Don't stand there with your mouth open. Give me your boots, man. You can keep mine.' Vimes added: 'I've got lots.'
The constable watched in frightened astonishment as Vimes pulled on the cheap pair and stood upright, stamping a few times with his eyes shut. 'Ah,' he said. 'I'm in front of the palace, right?'
'Er … yes, sir. You've just come out of it, sir. It's this big building here.'
'Ah,' said Vimes brightly, 'but I'd know I was here, even if I hadn't!'
'It's the flagstones,' said Vimes. 'They're an unusual size and slightly dished in the middle. Hadn't you noticed? Your feet, lad! That's what you'll have to learn to think with!'
The bemused constable watched him disappear into the fog, stamping happily.
Corporal the Right Honourable the Earl of Ankh Nobby Nobbs pushed open the Watch-House door and staggered inside.
Sergeant Colon looked up from the desk, and gasped. 'You okay, Nobby?' he said, hurrying around to support the swaying figure. 'It's terrible, Fred. Terrible!' 'Here, take a seat. You're all pale.'
'I've been elevated, Fred!' moaned Nobby.
'Nasty! Did you see who did it?'
Nobby wordlessly handed him the scroll Dragon King of Arms had pressed into his hand, and flopped back. He took a tiny length of home-made cigarette from behind his ear and lit it with a shaking hand. 'I dunno, I'm sure,' he said. 'You do your best, you keep your head down, you don't make any trouble, and then something like this happens to you.'
Colon read the scroll slowly, his lips moving when he came to difficult words like 'and' and 'the'. 'Nobby, you've read this? It says you're a lord!'
'The old man said they'd have to do a lot of checking up but he thought it was pretty clear what with the ring and all. Fred, what am I gonna do?'
'Sit back and eat off ermine plates, I should think!'
That's just it, Fred. There's no money. No big house. No land. Not a brass farthing!'
'Not a dried pea, Fred.'
'I thought all the upper crust had pots of money.'
'Well, I'm the crust on its uppers, Fred. I don't know anything about lording! I don't want to have to wear posh clothes and go to hunt balls and all that stuff.'
Sergeant Colon sat down beside him. 'You never suspected you'd got any posh connections?'
'Well… my cousin Vincent once got done for indecently assaulting the Duchess of Quirm's housemaid…'
'Chambermaid or scullery maid?'
'Scullery maid, I think.'
'Probably doesn't count, then. Does anyone else know about this?'
'Well, she did, and she went and told… '
'I mean about your lordshipping. '
'Only Mr Vimes.'
'Well, there you are,' said Sergeant Colon, handing him back the scroll. 'You don't have to tell anyone. Then you don't have to go around wearing golden trousers, and you needn't hunt balls unless you've lost 'em. You just sit there, and I'll fetch you a cup of tea, how about that? We'll see it through, don't you worry. '
'You're a toff, Fred.'
'That makes two of us, m'lord!' Colon waggled his eyebrows. 'Get it? Get it?'
'Don't, Fred,' said Nobby wearily.
The Watch-House door opened.
Fog poured in like smoke. In the midst of it were two red eyes. The parting shreds revealed the massive figure of a golem.
'Umpk,' said Sergeant Colon.
The golem held up its slate:
I HAVE COME TO YOU.
'Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I've, er, yeah, I can see that,' said Colon.
Dorfl turned the slate around. The other side read:
I GIVE MYSELF UP FOR MURDER. IT WAS I WHO KILLED THE OLD PRIEST. THE CASE IS SOLVED.
Colon, once his lips had stopped moving, scurried behind the suddenly very flimsy defences of his desk and scrabbled through the papers there.
'You keep it covered, Nobby,' he said, 'Make sure it don't run off.'
'Why's it going to run off?' said Nobby.
Sergeant Colon found a relatively clean piece of paper.
'Well, well, well, I, well, I guess I'd better… What's your name?'
The golem wrote:
By the time he was on the Brass Bridge (medium-sized cobbles of the rounded sort they called 'cat heads', quite a few missing) Vimes was already beginning to wonder if he'd done the right thing.
Autumn fogs were always thick, but he'd never known it this bad. The pall muffled the sounds of the city and turned the brightest lights into dim glows, even though in theory the sun hadn't set yet.
He walked along by the parapet. A squat, glistening shape loomed in the fog. It was one of the wooden hippos, some distant ancestor of Roderick or Keith. There were four on either side, all looking out towards the sea.
Vimes had walked past them thousands of times. They were old friends. He'd often stood in the lee of one on chilly nights, when he was looking for somewhere out of trouble.
That's what it used to be like, wasn't it? It hardly seemed that long ago. Just a handful of them in the Watch, staying out of trouble. And then Carrot had arrived, and suddenly the narrow circuit of their lives had opened up, and there were nearly thirty men (oh, including trolls and dwarfs and miscellaneous) in the Watch now, and they didn't skulk around keeping out of trouble, they went looking for trouble, and they found it everywhere they looked. Funny, that. As Vetinari had pointed out in that way of his, the more policemen you had, the more crimes seemed to be committed. But the Watch was back and out there on the streets, and if they weren't actually as good as Detritus at kicking arse they were definitely prodding buttock.
He lit a match on a hippo's toenail and cupped his hand around it to shield his cigar from the damp.
These murders, now. No one would care if the Watch didn't care. Two old men, murdered on the same day. Nothing stolen… He corrected himself: nothing apparently stolen. Of course, the thing about things that were stolen was that the bloody things weren't there. They almost certainly hadn't been fooling around with other people's wives. They probably couldn't remember what fooling around was. One spent his time among old religious books; the other, for gods' sakes, was an authority on the aggressive uses of baking.
People would probably say they had lived blameless lives.
But Vimes was a policeman. No one lived a completely blameless life. It might be just possible, by lying very still in a cellar somewhere, to get through a day without committing a crime. But only just. And, even then, you were probably guilty of loitering.
Anyway, Angua seemed to have taken this case personally. She always had a soft spot for the underdog.
So did Vimes. You had to. Not because they were pure or noble, because they weren't. You had to be on the side of underdogs because they weren't overdogs.
Everyone in this city looked after themselves. That's what the guilds were for. People banded together against other people. The guild looked after you from the cradle to the grave or, in the case of the Assassins, to other people's graves. They even maintained the law, or at least they had done, after a fashion. Thieving without a licence was punishable by death for the first offence. The Thieves' Guild saw to that. The arrangement sounded unreal, but it worked.
It worked like a machine. That was fine except for the occasional people who got crushed in the wheels.
The damp cobbles felt reassuringly real under his soles.
Gods, he'd missed this. He'd patrolled alone in the old days. When there was just him, and the stones glistened around 3am, it all seemed to make sense somehow –
Around him, the world became a crystal of horror, the special horror that has nothing to do with fangs or ichor or ghosts but has everything to do with the familiar becoming unfamiliar.
Something fundamental was wrong.
It took a few dreadful seconds for his mind to supply the details of what his subconscious had noticed. There had been five statues along the parapet on this side.
But there should have been four.
He turned very slowly and walked back to the last one. It was a hippo, all right.
So was the next one. There was graffiti on it. Nothing supernatural had 'Zaz Ys A Wonker' scrawled on it.
It seemed to him that it didn't take quite so long to get to the next one, and when he looked at it …
Two red points of light flared in the fog above him.
Something big and dark leapt down, knocked him to the ground and disappeared into the gloom.
Vimes struggled to his feet, shook his head and set off after it. No thought was involved. It is the ancient instinct of terriers and policemen to chase anything that runs away.
As he ran he felt automatically for his bell, which would summon other Watchmen, but the Commander of the Watch didn't carry a bell. Commanders of the Watch were on their own.
In Vimes's squalid office Captain Carrot stared at a piece of paper:
Repairs to Guttering, Watch House, Pseudopolis Yard. New downpipe, 35Â¡áicklewhite bend, four right-angled trusses, labour and making good. $16.35p.
There were more like them, including Constable Downspout's pigeon bill. He knew Sergeant Colon objected to the idea of a policeman being paid in pigeons, but Constable Downspout was a gargoyle and gargoyles had no concept of money. But they knew a pigeon when they ate it.
Still, things were improving. When Carrot had arrived the entire Watch's petty cash had been kept on a shelf in a tin marked 'Stronginthearm's Armour Polish for Gleaming Cohorts' and, if money was needed for anything, all you had had to do was go and find Nobby and force him to give it back.
Then there was the letter from a resident in Park Lane, one of the most select addresses in the city:
The Night Watch patrol in this street appears to be made up entirely of dwarfs. I have nothing against dwarfs amongst their own kind, at least they are not trolls, but one hears stories and I have daughters in the house. I demand that this situation is remedied instantly otherwise I shall have no option but to take up the matter with Lord Vetinari, who is a personal friend.
I am, sir, your obt. servant,
Joshua H. Catterail
This was police work, was it? He wondered if Mr Vimes were trying to tell him something. There were other letters. The Community Co-ordinator of Equal Heights for Dwarfs was demanding that dwarfs in the Watch be allowed to carry an axe rather than the traditional sword, and should be sent to investigate only those crimes committed by tall people. The Thieves' Guild was complaining that Commander Vimes had said publicly that most thefts were committed by thieves.
You'd need the wisdom of King Isiahdanu to tackle them, and these were only today's letters.
He picked up the next one and read: 'Translation of text found in Fr. Tubelcek's mouth. Why? SV.'
Carrot dutifully read the translation.
'In his mouth? Someone tried to put words in his mouth?' said Carrot, to the silent room.
He shivered, but not because of the cold that came from fear. Vimes's office was always cold. Vimes was an outdoors person. Fog was dancing in the open window, little fingers of it drifting in the light.
The next paper down the heap was a copy of Cheery's iconograph. Carrot stared at the two blurred red eyes.
He half-turned his head, but kept looking at the picture. 'Yes, Fred?'
'We've got the murderer! We've got 'im!'
'Is he a golem?'
'How did you know that?'
The tincture of night began to suffuse the soup of the afternoon.
Lord Vetinari considered the sentence, and found it good. He liked 'tincture' particularly. Tincture. Tincture. It was a distinguished word, and pleasantly countered by the flatness of 'soup'. The soup of the afternoon. Yes. In which may well be found the croutons of teatime.
He was aware that he was a little light-headed. He'd never have thought a sentence like that in a normal frame of mind.
In the fog outside the window, just visible by the candlelight, he saw the crouching shape of Constable Downspout.
A gargoyle, eh? He'd wondered why the Watch was indented for five pigeons a week on its wages bill. A gargoyle in the Watch, whose job it was to watch. That would be Captain Carrot's idea.
Lord Vetinari got up carefully from the bed and closed the shutters. He walked slowly to his writing table, pulled his journal out of its drawer, then tugged out a wad of manuscript and unstoppered the ink bottle.
Now then, where had he got to?
Chapter Eight, he read unsteadily, The Rites of Man.
'Concerning Truth,' he wrote, 'that which May be Spoken as Events Dictate, but should be Heard on Every Ocasfion…'
He wondered how he could work 'soup of the afternoon' into the treatise, or at least 'tincture of night'.
The pen scratched across the paper.
Unheeded on the floor lay the tray that had contained a bowl of nourishing gruel, concerning which he had resolved to have strong words with the cook when he felt better. It had been tasted by three tasters, including Sergeant Detritus, who was unlikely to be poisoned by anything that worked on humans or even by most things that worked on trolls… but probably by most things that worked on trolls.
The door was locked. Occasionally he could hear the reassuring creak of Detritus on his rounds. Outside the window, the fog condensed on Constable Downspout.
Vetinari dipped the pen in the ink and started a new page. Every so often he consulted the leather-bound journal, licking his fingers delicately to turn the thin pages.
Tendrils of fog slipped in around the shutters and brushed against the wall until they were frightened away by the candlelight.